Lisa Schwarzbaum
January 09, 2008 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Orphanage

Current Status
In Season
100 minutes
Limited Release Date
Montserrat Carulla, Fernando Cayo, Geraldine Chaplin
Juan Antonio Bayona
Sergio G. Sánchez
Mystery and Thriller, Drama, Horror

We gave it a B

The ghosts of so many other arty supernatural Spanish-accented thrillers crowd the room in The Orphanage that you may feel at first like you’re at a séance presided over by Guillermo del Toro. Don’t discount that sixth sense so quickly — this tale of maternal obsession from Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona and screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez is indeed produced by del Toro, the Mexican spook-freak who made Pan’s Labyrinth and all that Hellboy jazz.

But don’t let memories of the others — and The Others — lull you, either. This clever, clue-strewing Peter Pan’s Labyrinth begins classically enough, when Laura (Belén Rueda), her husband, and their adopted son (Roger Príncep) move into a scenic old pile that was once the orphanage where Laura herself lived as a girl. The boy keeps saying he sees not-exactly-dead people. Then an ominous former housekeeper appears, the son goes missing, a medium is called in (the ever-fascinating Geraldine Chaplin), and Laura descends into a kind of telepathic madness on behalf of wronged children.

You’re either in the mood to go along with the puzzle pieces or you’re not. I’m not usually a puzzle-piece fan myself, not when it’s clear that the filmmaker rigs the moves. But I couldn’t help but fall for the repurposed real estate, and cheer for the lady strong enough to break through walls when she senses a child is waiting. B

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